Transformational Food Manufacturing Innovation Institute (TFMII)

  • The Transformational Food Manufacturing Innovation Institute - University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Georgia Tech, UC-Davis


The July 6 webinar was recorded and can be heard here:


The webinar explained the goals of the institute, the organizational structure and the needs from each of the partners and collaborators. 


Contact Information
UNL College of Engineering
(402) 472-3181

The Transformational Food Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Advanced Food Manufacturing (TFMII) is a shared vision that began in 2015 to create a national public‐private partnership focusing on improving the quality, volume, safety and security of food through advanced manufacturing.

As part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) NNMI Competition, an initial proposal was submitted in April 2016. NIST then requested a full proposal, which is due July 22, 2016. (resource:

The Institute has been proposed to help the U.S. government define the critical needs of the U.S. food and beverage industry for advanced manufacturing and research. If selected, the breadth and depths of the organizations of the TFMII will serve as a resource and a catalyst for innovative research and commercialization of technologies currently needed in the food industry and as rapid response and expert advice to the government. The TFMII will be headquartered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with branches at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California, Davis.

In May 2016, a workshop was held in Washington, D.C., completing a critical follow‐up from the first workshop of the Transformational Food Manufacturing initiative held in May 2015 at the University of Nebraska‐Lincoln (Food Factory of the Future Workshop)

The D.C. workshop created a technology roadmap to identify the few critical technology areas the TFMII will focus on in order to fulfill its mission. Representatives from approximately 25 companies, manufacturing partnerships, state and regional development entities and universities worked to do the following:
  • Identify the gaps in the current technology universe of the food and beverage industry
  • Create a future roadmap proposal of realistic and proven technological solutions to help propel the industry to the next evolutionary level.
The Vision
Establish a Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII), a public-private partnership, through the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) focused on advanced manufacturing in the U.S. food industry.

The MII opportunity:
  • $70M from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce over 5 years
  • Minimum 1:1 match from industry, academia, state and local governments (past winners have demonstrated ›2:1)
  • This is an open topic competition; 2 MIIs will be awarded
  • Proposal deadline: July 22, 2016

The National/Global Context
  • The growing global population (~9 billion people by 2050) can be destabilized by a lack of healthy and plentiful food supply.
  • 50% of the world’s food supply is lost to waste.
  • In the U.S., the $300B food manufacturing industry is in a state of crisis.
  • Energy and water intensive production methods have changed little since the early/mid 20th century.
  • Much of our food is handled by humans who transfer and introduce contaminants and pathogens, creating recent recalls.
  • Low margins, activist investors and industry inertia are drastically reducing R&D from the industry in favor of short returns.
  • At the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in food safety-related recalls.
  • The U.S. economy, global security and stability depend on our ability to make more abundant, higher quality, safer, less expensive and more secure food for a growing global population.

The Solution Approach
  • Establish a pre-competitive public-private partnership (i.e., an MII) to transform how food is made.
  • Focus primarily on food safety, security and automation as the unifying pre-competitive themes for the partnership.
  • Industry executives identify the following three areas as highest priorities:
    • Traceability – advanced sensors and big data analytics are necessary to detect and monitor transmission and growth of pathogens/allergens along the entire supply chain.
    • Sanitation – this is a water, time and labor intensive process representing a cost of 3% of gross revenues industry wide
    • Raw material prep-processing (disassembly) – these are dangerous (deboning), difficult, repetitive processes where humans can transfer contaminants across the entire production process.

Technology Roadmap
Deploy transformational advanced manufacturing teams across four major technology areas:
  • Automation and Control – This will allow workers to elevate their technical skill sets and operation away from the production floor.
  • Sensors – State of the art sensors, both for automation and control, as well as for real-time detection of contaminants will be necessary.
  • Big Data – Advances in information technology are making it possible to track critical food data along the entire supply chain.
  • Antimicrobial Materials and Coatings – Significant cost reductions can be realized if coatings can be developed that are hostile to contaminants or better protect the final product.
These efforts will be integrated into a matrix involving:
  • Sanitation – Savings in sanitation costs can be used to capitalize the food manufacturing transformation into the future.
  • Raw Materials Preparation – The challenge is handling and cutting ingredients that are variable in size, shape, material properties, etc.
  • Food Production Processes – This is at the heart of the transformation, making the food remotely away from the production floor

Industry/Market Opportunities
The ability to automate and control food production opens tremendous opportunities to tailor foods to individual customer tastes and preferences.

This will create opportunities for:
  • Ultra-Customization – Like cars and consumer goods, food in the future can be customized for different personal and cultural tastes.
  • Reduced Waste – Smaller lots with targeted ingredients will lead to significant reduction in the amount of food discarded in western societies.
  • Sustainability – Production methodologies will be far more efficient, reducing the demand for ingredients, preservatives, energy and water.
  • Safer, Wholesome Food Supply – This will drastically reduce the change of external microbial contamination and the risk of expensive food recalls.

Key Impacts/Challenges
Successful transformation of the food manufacturing industry will require solutions to and result in additional critical challenges:
  • Standards and Certifications – Current codes and standards in the industry are often confusing (multiple agencies), antiquated, and impediments to positive change.
  • Workforce Development – This transformation will create the need for a highly skilled technical workforce.
  • Consumer Education/Public Policy – Success of the transformation will ultimately depend on a well-informed consumer who understands precisely what constitutes ‘high quality food’, how to keep it safe and protect the consumers.

University of Nebraska College of Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
UC-Davis - University of California